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#GivingTuesday set to break records in holiday generosity

After the frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes the event that's about sharing, not shopping. Giving Tuesday, a grass-roots movement from citizen philanthropists that is now entering its third year, is poised to turn the Tuesday after Thanksgiving into a day of giving.

Giving Tuesday launched in 2012 as a partnershp between the 92 Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation as an alternative to the commercially branded Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Since then, it has raised $40 million for causes and grown to include 10,000 companies, foundations and organizations to encourage people to give as part of the holiday tradition.

At least one consultancy's research is predicting that this year's Giving Tuesday will double last year's financial result, raising over $54 million.

Even the White House released a statement on Giving Tuesday last week, in which President Obama said that this year the movement would “take take many forms, but all will be energized by a common impulse to make life better, especially for those in need.”

He said that it has extended into “Global Tuesday” as a phenomenon that started in the U.S., but has caught on around the world.

“This year you will see increased numbers, but more importantly, increased levels of creativity partnership and innovation in the way people celebrate giving on #GivingTuesday,” said Aaron Sherinian, chief communications and marketing officer for the U.N. Foundation.

“We are already seeing a crescendo of creativity around the #GivingTuesday community this year.”

Holiday giving

Despite the spike in shopping, Americans like to give during the holidays, too. A survey from Causes.com and Harris Interactive found that 85 percent of Americans have donated to a charitable organization, and 34 percent are more likely to donate during the holiday season.

According to Causes.com, donation amounts on the site spiked by 42 percent during November and December. Giving Tuesday generates momentum around that impulse to give, and makes it painless and easy.

Feeding America, a nonprofit that provides millions of meals to the hungry every year, is doing a Giving Tuesday event sponsored by well-known speaker Tony Robbins, who suffered hunger himself as a child. Robbins is doing a Giving Tuesday challenge grant that helps every $1 in donations distribute 20 meals.

Melody Badgett, director of marketing for 1% for the Planet, a coalition of 1,200 companies in 45 countries that donate 1 percent of their annual sales to member charities, notes that the event helps generate buzz inside and outside organizations.

Many of the companies that Badgett works with are providing ways for customers to make donations with their purchases for Giving Tuesday, and it gets customers and employees involved.

“It gets the entire organization posting on Twitter and Facebook,” says Bagett. “It's engaging for everyone.”

The Unselfie

Part of the grass-roots growth of the movement is thanks to a social media push featuring the “UNselfie” — the selfie with a twist. Giving Tuesday givers take a photo of themselves holding a piece of paper with the name of the charity they support and post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtags #unselfie and #GivingTueday.

Last year, over 7,000 Unselfies were posted to social media, and the Giving Tuesday page received over 1.2 billion Facebook likes.

At first, people feel awkward about posting an Unselfie, says Chrysula Winegar, a community manager for the United Nations Foundation. “I was worried people would think I was boasting about what a 'good' person I am,” says Winegar, who posted her Unselfie last year supporting ShotatLife, which gives children life-saving vaccines.

But the gesture is powerful not only because of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” copy-cat effect, but because people often give because people who they trust ask them to, says Winegar.

A Red Cross survey released last week finds that personal relationships influence giving online and off. The survey of 1,021 adults found that 70 percent of social media users would respond in some way to a friend's posting about making a charitable donation.

“Even among social media users, it's the messenger, not the medium, that's key to motivating social media users to donate to charity, suggesting that personal appeals from friends matter more than trending topics and gimmicks,” read the report.

Social users are a charitable group, according to the study — with more than seven in 10 (71 percent) donating to a charity in the past 12 months, and of those who gave to charity, 60 percent donated online.

Grass-roots growing

Relying mostly on word-of-mouth and social media, Giving Tuesday increased online giving from 2012 to 2013 by 90 percent, with a 40 percent increase in the average gift size.

What's exciting about the movement as it grows, says Winegar, is that it doesn't just benefit the big players — like the Gates Foundation and Oxfam — but the smaller, “scrappier” organizations that are doing good work.

Local organizations are partnering with local businesses to make donations go further. Arkansas Food Bank, for example, in Little Rock, was gifted a match by Arnold's Flooring America & Cantrell Furniture Design Center to double the impact of Giving Tuesday donations.

Giving Tuesday is a marketing vehicle that gives local causes a chance to jump on a campaign with much larger reach.

“When we have attention and people are galvanized in one direction, big things can happen,” says Badgett. “The giving spirit is there.”

Writer's Note: Learn more about how to volunteer or donate with Giving Tuesday at www.givingtuesday.org. An Unselfie took kit for you and your organization can be found here.

Email: laneanderson@deseretnews.com